According to my ground-breaking happiness formula, to think about happiness, we need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
The Happiness Project showed me that in my case, to boost my happiness, I needed to do a lot of work in the “feeling bad” category. I needed to figure out how to feel less anger, irritation, remorse, boredom, anxiety, etc.
And, of course, less guilt.
I recently read that a study divided guilt into two categories:
o Breaches in SELF-REGULATION — procrastinating, overeating, drinking too much, spending too much, not exercising
o Breaches in COMMITMENTS – sexual cheating, not spending enough time on friends or family
But aren’t there other kinds of guilt? Some people feel guilty for living in comfort and safety when others are suffering. Maybe that’s the second category, “commitments”– you feel that you’re not doing enough to alleviate the world’s pain.
I have absolutely found that one reason that my Happiness Project has made me happier is that I’ve worked hard to fix aspects of my life that were causing me guilt – everything from remembering friends’ birthdays, to doing weight-training, to giving up those fake Nutritious Creations cookies I loved, to quitting nagging the Big Man, to starting the morning by singing to my daughters instead of barking orders.
When I eliminate a source of “feeling bad,” often it doesn’t show up in my day as a source of “feeling good,” but it lifts up my experience of my life, because I’m not beset by constant pricks of conscience. It also makes me “feel right” about how I’m behaving.
Sometimes, though, my actions do make me “feel good.” It makes me happy to send a “happy birthday” email and get a response back from a friend. It makes me happy to have a more pleasant, cheerful morning. So not only is “feeling bad” removed, “feeling good” is added.
That’s the way to get more bang for the happiness buck. Find something that’s making you feel guilty, and find a way to make it a source of happiness.
Also, I keep reminding myself, “Make it easy to do right.” For example, because I really dislike making phone calls, I don’t try to make myself call friends or family, because I’ll just procrastinate – but I have started sending many more emails.
Guilt. Why had I not yet focused on this rich (in painful) vein of material?
Two “secrets” stuck in my mind. One was a photo of a small china piggy bank beside the handwritten words, “if i had a million dollars, i would give it all away for one more day with her like it used to be in the beginning.”
The second was a picture of a woman’s hands holding up a sign, “Psst, here’s a secret…your last mortal thought will be, ‘Why did I take so many days — just like today — for granted?”